Young African leaders are building the future of trade
Evelyn Seltier talked with Liberian youth leader and social entrepreneur Mohammed Kerkulah about the role of young leaders and that of the African Continental Free Trade Area in shaping the future of African youth in trade.
How can the African Continental Free Trade Area benefit youth leadership?
The Free Trade Area aims to integrate the entire region into a unified market, embodying a combined GDP of $2.5 trillion and a population of over 1 billion, 60% of which are below the age of 25.
By 2050, Africa’s youth population is projected to reach 460 million people. While this surely poses a challenge to Africa, it also provides huge opportunities. Once fully enforced, the African Continental Free Trade Area will inevitably produce more jobs and employment opportunities for Africa’s rising youth population.
However, young leaders must recognize the vital role they have to play in ensuring that the Free Trade Area is in full roll. Otherwise, the benefits are rare. This challenges youth to get actively involved in taking on leadership roles, studying entrepreneurship, venturing into business, and cultivating teamwork to shape Africa’s destiny.
What is the role of women or men leaders in creating a better present and future for young entrepreneurs?
As the Free Trade Area can directly benefit Africa’s youth population, young women and men leaders need to focus on entrepreneurship. Leaders should train and prepare young entrepreneurs, facilitate the entry of new businesses operated by youth, and strengthen regional collaboration.
These trainings should involve both soft and hard skills to avoid leaving anyone behind. The success of the African Continental Free Trade Area depends on the youth, and as such, African youth must be prepared to take ownership of the agenda and champion the cause.
How is Africa’s digital transformation contributing to creating economic opportunities for youth?
Africa’s digital transformation will reduce unemployment. It will facilitate a rapid expansion of youth entrepreneurship, especially through start-ups and self-employment.
However, unfortunately, most African economies, such as Liberia, are making very slow progress due to infrastructural constraints: limited access to stable electricity, high costs of internet subscription, slow and unstable internet, high costs and limited knowledge of digital devices.
To address these issues, governments should explore these four areas:
1) Improve the communications infrastructure to access electricity and strong internet connections.
2) Make digital devices affordable and reduce costs of internet subscription.
3) Teach digital skills in schools.
4) Introduce a specific tax system for the digital economy.
How do your networks leverage multiplier effects to create jobs?
At the Youth Alliance for Leadership and Development in Africa (YALDA) in Liberia, we are training youth on entrepreneurship. We are also building the capacity of university students with our job readiness training, which prepares them for the demands of the job market.
Which three key benefits does YALDA bring to young entrepreneurs across the continent?
As a champion of the African Continental Free Trade Area, YALDA provides African youth with information, access to finance and educational resources. Moreover, the Alliance has developed the “Umoja Africa Campaign” which focuses on engaging youth to champion the Free Trade Area and ensure its full implementation.
Finally, over the years, YALDA has been giving virtual webinars to create awareness on the Free Trade Area, initiating competitions among young entrepreneurs, as well as creating access to finance and educational opportunities.
Mohammed Kerkulah is the founder and CEO of Global Opportunities Network (GONET), Inc., where he works with his team in building the capacity of young opportunity seekers and providing them with global career opportunities.
Mohammed is the Deputy West Africa Regional Associate of YALDA International and President of YALDA Liberia. Recently, he represented Liberia and graduated from the one-year West African Young Leaders (WAYLead) Fellowship in Accra, Ghana. Mohammed is a third-year student pursuing the Bachelor of Social Work at the University of Liberia. He is a visionary young leader and an emerging social entrepreneur, working in different capacities for youth to become ethical leaders and social entrepreneurs for a sustainable future. Mohammed is well-known for his slogan, “Together, We Lead!”, and he believes collective leadership will transform Africa and the world.